Saving the Company Ch. 03byJoeDreamer©
"You're really quite bad," Brad said as we reached for the drinks the bartender dropped in front of us.
"You say that every time," I sighed as I lifted my glass to my lips.
"I know," he added with a shake of his head. "But you would think that you'd get better as time went by. You're actually getting worse! I think today might be a personal low for you."
"That you've seen," I replied. We looked at each other for a moment before Brad slapped me on the back and burst into laughter. I grinned.
"I've never been any good at golf," I shrugged. "I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing you in front of your club friends."
"Don't worry," he replied with a grin. "Any embarrassment here falls directly on your shoulders." I took his teasing without getting offended. After all, he was right.
"Maybe I should give up playing?" I offered.
"Now there's no reason to overreact," Brad replied quickly.
"I thought you'd say that," I said knowingly. "How come my playing doesn't seem to bother you any other time except right after we play? You never comment about it during the week."
"What exactly are you trying to say?" Brad asked with an innocent look.
"It's simply enough," I said with a shrug. "I think you're afraid I'll quit if you tease me all week. You enjoy trouncing me too much to let that happen." Brad fought off a smile.
"Well, there are so few men left that a man my age can actually beat..." he began, trying to make his voice sound sad.
"Bull!" I interjected. "You could probably still take half the pros at this course!" His eyes twinkled as he finally smiled. It was an exaggeration and we both knew it, but not by as much as you would think.
"We'll continue to work on your game," he said after we both downed some more of our drinks. "You can't be a good CEO with such a poor game." I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He nodded slightly, confirming his decision.
"I thought you weren't going to choose a new CEO for at least another three months?" I asked carefully.
It's not like I didn't want the job, but Brad was a dynamo and I was learning quite a lot from working with him. At my age it was a bit of a shock to find someone I considered a mentor. At least Brad had me by twenty years. It helped.
"You think I should give it to Karl?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. I snorted.
"Don't even joke about that!"
"So then, what's the problem?" Brad asked.
"Nothing really," I replied with a shrug. "It's only been a few months since you came out of retirement. Are you ready to go back again so soon?"
"Not really," he grinned, taking another taste of his drink. "But Cherie isn't happy. For some strange reason she likes having me around. I keep putting her off, but she isn't the most patient woman."
"Oh," I said glumly. I really liked Brad. I was going to miss him.
"What the matter? Don't you want the job?" he asked with a frown.
"Sure," I smiled. "But if you go back into retirement, who is going to help me improve at golf?"
Brad looked at me carefully. I watched as the real reason for my hesitation dawned on him. It was amazing how close Brad and I were in such a short period of time. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
"Oh don't worry, Cherie or no Cherie, I still plan on finishing out the year. I just don't see the point of playing games with the CEO position," he replied. "Besides, she'll calm down once she hears that I've named a successor."
"So, I'll still get a chance to improve my game?" I asked with a smile.
"A chance," he replied. "But I wouldn't hold my breath." We both laughed again.
"When are you going to announce your decision?" I asked.
"I'm tempted to walk in and do it on Monday just to see Karl's expression," he said. If anything, Brad disliked Karl more than I did. "But I think I'll wait until I decide on who to promote in his place."
"You think Karl will quit when you name me CEO?" I asked.
"That or you'll fire him when you take over," Brad replied with a shrug.
"There is that," I said, nodding slowly in agreement.
"You know, I think he'll actually be surprised when he hears. He really is in his own little world," Brad sighed.
"Just out of curiosity," I began. "How come you don't fire him now?" Brad frowned. He was a direct man who seldom hesitated, but he did so now.
"Well, partly because I honestly would be happier if I had his successor in place first," he said, but then he sighed and forced himself to add, "And partly because Brad junior and Karl really are good friends. I don't understand it, but at my age I'd rather not take a chance at causing a rift between Bradley and me."
"So, I get the fun job of pissing off your son," I said bluntly.
"Delegation is key if you want to be a good CEO," he replied. I just rolled my eyes, causing him to laugh yet again.
"How are things going with Bethany?" he asked, changing the subject.
"How should I know? She refuses to even talk to me anymore unless it's work related," I sighed.
"You really need to get your personal life in order."
"Tell me about it," I grumbled. "Bethany can be an extremely stubborn woman."
"Yes, she can, can't she?" Brad asked rhetorically, his eyes once again twinkling.
"You know, you could enjoy my misery a little less obviously."
"True, but where's the fun in that?" he said, and then changing the subject again by adding, "By the way, did you get the email from Judy on the Pertol sale?"
"Yes," I answered. "You know, my opinion of her has gone up traumatically in the last few months. Pertol was a tough sale."
"She's coming along," Brad nodded. "Judy was always a survivor, but she really is blossoming in the team environment we're developing. I think she'll be happier than you seem to be when I announce your promotion."
"I am happy," I insisted, but he just grinned. We ordered another drink and sat for a while longer.
"I guess it's time for me to go," Brad eventually said with a sigh as he looked at his watch. He finished his drink and added, "I promised Cherie I'd be home in time for an early dinner."
"I'll see you Monday morning," I replied. He nodded as he stood.
"By the way," he said just before turning to leave. "You need help if you're going to break through the barriers Bethany has set up."
"Are you offering?" I asked.
"Well then, thanks for nothing!" I growled. He laughed and shook his head.
"Bethany's daughter?" I asked in surprise.
"I hear she and her daughter Molly are coming for lunch on Tuesday. It's for Molly's birthday."
"Hmm, that's an interesting thought," I said aloud, more to myself then Brad. He just smiled and left.
The phone rang and I picked it up.
"They're here," a voice whispered secretly. I rolled my eyes.
"Thanks Sally," I replied. Sally was the receptionist and a friend of Bethany's. She was also queen of the rumor mill and the company yenta.
Sally visited me a week after Brad's return to ask me if there was anything she could do to help with Bethany. I wasn't sure how she heard about what was going on between us, but at least Sally thought it was a good match.
I didn't initially take her up on her offer, but Brad was correct. I needed help. So I visited Sally earlier in the day and asked her to let me know when Jennie and Molly arrived. I'm not sure how smart that was based on her reaction, but so be it. I was beginning to get desperate.
I stood to go intercept Jennie, but hesitated a moment longer. I still wasn't sure what I was going to say to Bethany's daughter.
'Excuse me, you don't know me, but I like your mother and I was wondering if you wouldn't mind helping me get a date with her?' just wouldn't cut it. On the other hand, I didn't have time to say much else. My thoughts were interrupted by a knock on my door.
'Damn!' I thought, hoping that whoever it was wouldn't take up too much time. I only had a small window of opportunity. I sighed and said aloud, "Come in."
The door opened and my eyebrows rose in surprise as a younger version of Bethany and a beautiful little girl entered. At first I thought Sally had done more than simply call me, but it didn't make sense considering the stage whisper she used over the phone.
"Mother was right," Bethany's daughter Jennie said without preamble. "You are handsome."
"Thank you," I said carefully. Her directness was a surprise.
"So, what's going on between you and my mother?" she asked.
"Pardon?" I almost stammered.
"She refuses to talk about you anymore and has for months," Jennie replied. "But every time I mention your name I can see something in her eyes or hear it in her voice." I looked at Bethany daughter and frowned. I needed a moment to gather my thoughts so I turned to the little girl holding Jennie's hand.
"You must be Molly," I said with a smile, ignoring Jennie for the moment.
"Hello," Molly replied. She looked bored.
"I hear it's your birthday?" I asked. This brightened Molly significantly as she nodded. I smiled and asked, "How old are you now? Thirteen? Fourteen?"
"Six, silly!" she giggled. My smile turned into a grin.
"Wow!" I said. "Happy Birthday!"
"Do you have a present for me?" Molly asked, surprising even her seemingly unflappable mother.
"Molly!" Jennie snapped, but I cut her off.
"As a matter of fact, I do," I replied, causing Molly to cry out happily and clap her hands while her mother frowned. I handed Molly the bag on top of my desk. She pulled it open and found a wrapped present.
"I hope you like it," I said. "I haven't shopped for a little girl in years. Not since my daughter was your age." Jennie was looking at me oddly as Molly tore through the gift-wrap.
"She's beautiful!" Molly exclaimed once she saw the doll I bought for her. I sighed to myself in relief. It was nice to know that it was still a safe bet to buy a little girl a doll.
"Isn't it a bit presumptuous to buy my daughter a present?" Jennie asked as we both watched Molly sit at my desk and immediately start playing with the doll. I couldn't tell if Bethany's daughter was really offended or not.
"Possibly," I shrugged. "But your mother is being rather stubborn and I could use all the help I can get." Jennie looked at me carefully for a moment longer before smiling.
"So, what do you plan on bribing me with?" she asked.
"What will it take?" I asked in reply. Her smile turned into a grin.
"Oh, this is going to be fun!" she laughed.
Bethany tried not to grimace as she knocked on the door to her daughter's house. Her son-in-law Bob opened it and smiled when he saw her.
"Are you ready to enter the fray?" he asked as he kissed her cheek and took the packages she was carrying.
"Not really," Bethany sighed. "But let's get going. I'm sure Jennie could use all the help she can get with twenty little girls running around." Molly had insisted that every girl from both kindergarten classes be invited to her birthday party. At best it was going to be a zoo.
"It's not that bad right now," Bob laughed. "But the clown is just about done with his show."
"Oh, joy," Bethany said soberly. Bob shook his head.
"We have your hair wrapping stuff set up next to the face painter," he said.
"Face painter?" Bethany asked in surprise. She hadn't heard about Jennie hiring one of those.
"Just a friend helping out," Bob replied. He avoided looking at his mother-in-law. He wasn't sure Jennie was doing the right thing by getting involved with Bethany's love life, but he knew better than to say so.
"You know," Bethany sighed, thinking about the coming hours. "I never really liked wrapping hair. I learned it from one of Jennie's friends who worked at an amusement park years ago. Jennie was having a sleep over in high school and I helped wrap the other girls' hair. It became almost a monthly task after that for Jennie and her closest friends."
"You're worried that Molly will like it and ask you to do her hair every time you come over?" Bob grinned.
"I don't have a problem doing Molly's hair. She is my granddaughter after all," Bethany smiled.
"Of course," he said, nodding sagely.
"It's all the other little girls. It tires me out just thinking about the possibility of Molly inviting girls over so grandma can wrap their hair," Bethany sighed.
"In that case, you should have said no when Jennie asked."
"To your wife?" Bethany said incredulously.
"You mean your daughter," Bob replied. They looked at each other and laughed. "I'll see you later. I'm supposed to be checking on the food." Bethany nodded and went to the back door. She looked out and stifled another sigh.
It was Saturday and she should either be resting or catching up on some of the work that was piling up. Having Brad around again was great, but tiring.
"Grandma! Grandma!" Molly cried as she saw Bethany standing by the door. "Do you like my face?"
"It's as beautiful as always," Bethany replied with a grin as she forgot about work and resting. Today was her granddaughter's special day. It was only right that she be here to be part of it.
"I mean the paint!" Molly frowned, causing Bethany to laugh.
"Oh yes, it's quite becoming," she said, kissing her granddaughter on the top of her head. Whoever had painted the hearts and stars on Molly's face was actually pretty good.
"Can you wrap my hair first?" Molly asked. Bethany did an admirable job of hiding her grimace. She was even was able to force a smile on her face.
"Of course," she said. "You are the birthday girl after all!" Molly grabbed Bethany's hand and dragged her across the yard to where the hair wrap supplies were set up.
"I already know what colors I want!" Molly exclaimed. Bethany was about to reply when she saw who was painting the children's faces right next to where she was set up. She froze. "What's wrong grandma? Come on!"
"You run along Molly," Bethany said in a tone that brooked no argument. "I just need to have a word with your mother first."
"Okay," Molly moaned. "But please hurry!"
Bethany found her daughter clearing plates. Jennie looked up at Bethany and sighed when she saw her expression.
"Don't start mother," Jennie said quickly. "He volunteered to help out when I visited you at the office on Tuesday and Molly was ecstatic about having someone to paint faces at her party. You have to admit. He does a very good job."
"Jennie," Bethany said softly. "Did you ever tell Bob about that concert you and Sandy went to your freshman year of college?" Jennie looked at her mother in surprise.
"Mother, you wouldn't!" Jennie cried.
"What was that gentleman's name? Harry? Henry? Harper! That's it, Harper!"
Jennie looked at her mother carefully and realized just how mad Bethany really was. She had to be to bring up the Harper fiasco. It was not one of Jennie's better moments. Bob knew about it, but Jennie's hadn't gone into much detail, at least certainly not the detail that her mother's look promised to share.
"Mother, this is a rather ugly side of you," Jennie said.
"Nonsense," Bethany replied calmly. "I just think that I could help your relationship with Bob if I described some of your more colorful outings."
"You wouldn't!" Jennie said. Bethany smiled for the first time. It wasn't pleasant. It was the same one Jennie remembered from her youth when her mother was planning on making a point to her about something she did wrong.
"I would," Bethany replied. "I think it's only fair that I get involved with your love life now that you think you can get involved with mine." They locked eyes until Jennie finally looked away.
"Okay mother, you win," she sighed. "But he really seems like such a nice guy." Bob arrived with a tray of food, but both women momentarily ignored him.
"He is," Bethany replied. "But that's not the point."
"It's your life," Jennie grumbled. "But just keep in mind that not many men as busy as he is and at his age would be willing to come to a six year old's party and paint little girls' faces for a couple of hours."
"Your point?" Bethany asked with a frown.
"It's simply enough," Jennie replied. "Stop being so stubborn and don't blow it! He must like you a lot."
"Jennie..." Bethany began, but Jennie cut her off.
"I know, I know," she sighed. "Mind my business!"
"Exactly," Bethany replied succinctly and then turned and walked away. Jennie watched her mother make her way toward Molly and the hair wrapping area.
"That was unpleasant," Bob said tactfully. Jennie snorted.
"Actually, it went better than I expected," Bethany's daughter replied. "Shemust really like him."
"Didn't I just hear you promise to stay of out it?" Bob asked. There was something in Jennie's tone that made him nervous.
"Yes," she agreed. She turned toward him and smiled. Bob sighed. He knew that smile.
"Just leave me out of it," he said. "I don't want to get on your mother's bad side."
"We'll see," she said, not committing to anything. Bob stifled a groan.
"Hello," I said carefully as I continued to paint the little girl's face. I wasn't sure how Bethany would react to my presence, however I wasn't really surprised when she just nodded stiffly and refused to look at me. I sighed and thought to myself, 'Maybe coming here wasn't such a great idea.'
"Grandma, I want purple, pink, yellow, orange and..." Molly, who had been waiting impatiently for her grandmother, said excitedly.
"Molly," Bethany interjected. "Let's limit ourselves to two colors for today and see how it looks." I smiled as I watched the two negotiate. They eventually agreed on three colors.
Bethany started slowly. She took a few strands of Molly's long straight hair and started wrapping it in one of the colors her granddaughter chose. After a few minutes she began moving faster.
She quickly drew a crowd of little girls. They made appreciative noises as they discussed the colors they would choose when it was their turn. I saw Bob organize them into another line similar to the one of little girls waiting for me to paint their faces. I was curious on how Bethany learned to wrap hair, but figured asking her now would be a mistake.
I finished painting the little girl's face and another girl sat in the chair. I rinsed the brush and shook my hands to relax them. They were getting stiff. I hadn't painted faces in years. The arthritis didn't help. It sucked getting old. Thankfully it wasn't really bad today and mostly affected the wrist of my opposite hand.
"So, what does a beautiful little girl like you want me to paint on her face?" I asked.
"I like bats and spiders!" the girl exclaimed. "Scary ones!"
"Oh," I said, trying to hide my surprise. I could see Bethany smile slightly out of the corner of my eye.
"Ill!" a couple of the nearby girls cried. I tried to dissuade the little girl, but she insisted. Bethany even jumped in and tried to help.
"Bats and spiders are for Halloween. This is a birthday party! How about a unicorn or carrousel horse?" she put in. I looked at her and sighed. She wasn't picking easy stuff. The girl turned Bethany's ideas down flat, but some of the other girls seemed very interested. I sighed again. Bethany's smile grew wider.
"I can't put a spider or bat on such a beautiful face," I said, and then asked, "How about I put a nice scary spider on your arm?"
"Okay," the little girl said, holding out her right arm. I smiled and reached for my brush. A bat would have been easier, but I preferred spiders. In truth, neither was traumatically hard, just harder then the hearts, stars and moons I'd been getting away with so far.
It didn't take particularly long to make a 'Scary' spider, even with a web as the background. Bethany was still working on her granddaughter's hair. She was moving fast, but at this rate she'd never finish all of the girls.